Sultan: Nonsense! One thing I pride myself on, Jafar... I'm an excellent judge of character.
Iago: Oh, excellent judge, yeah, sure... not!
Some people just can't read other people. They see the villain and think they're The Hero, they see a Sleazy Politician and think they'll change the world for the better, and they think Sergeant Rock is a Jerkass when he just wants to keep everyone alive.
This person might be overly trusting or naïve, or have a hard time reading social cues and body language, or maybe they're just dimwitted in general. They could also be too closed off to hear other characters' warnings about the bad guy's true nature.
This can be a matter of degree, ranging from characters who routinely get everybody wrong to an absurd degree, to normal people who are usually at least okay at judging other people but critically get one key character wrong for reasonable reasons, whether that be because the subject of their mistake is a Manipulative Bastard or because Love Makes You Dumb.
This can lead to a My God, What Have I Done? on the part of the character doing it if their misjudgement makes them the Unwitting Instigator of Doom. If they never do, they could continue being the Unwitting Pawn to the point of being Too Dumb to Live.
This is the inverse of Excellent Judge of Character, where a character is really good at figuring other people out.
If everybody is a bad judge of a particular character, that character may be a Hero with Bad Publicity or a Villain with Good Publicity. If the work expects the audience not to figure out that an Obviously Evil character is a villain, that's Obvious Judas.
- Anime & Manga
- Comic Books
- Fan Works
- Live-Action TV
- Video Games
- Visual Novels
- Western Animation
- In the Jay Bush and Duke ads for Bush's Baked Beans, Jay Bush often refers to Duke as being trustworthy or someone who would never tell the secret recipe, despite the many instances the audience is shown to the contrary. In the earliest ad or two, it's indicated he says that Duke would never tell because he doesn't know that he's a Talking Animal, though later on he's shown to be well aware of this fact, yet still makes the statement anyway.
- In Happy Heroes, the Supermen never realize Big M. and Little M. are trying to take over Planet Xing, even if the evidence is staring them right in the face. Sweet S. does come close to discovering this in an episode of Season 8, however, when she thinks Big M. is the glowing-bellied criminal she's after and is prepared to face the fact that he's a villain without an insane amount of denial. But then Huo Haha gets him out of the situation.
- Susan of Candorville has made some pretty bad decisions, such as trying a bit of Operation: Jealousy on her oblivious friend Lemont (it doesn't work; not only does he want her to be happy, it leaves him open to pursuing an online relationship with his college crush, who happens to be Susan's married ex-best friend) or adopting a dog that's obviously a wolf that might be Lemont's vampire baby mama in disguise.
- The Comics Curmudgeon has a lot of fun pointing out how Adrian and later her father from Mary Worth fit this mold.
- The Wizard of Id: When the Wizard goes away on vacation, the guys he hires to look after his lab are, well, see for yourself.
- In The Far Side, a couple who have a stereotypical Wicked Witch babysit their two children are shocked to find out when they return that she's cooked and eaten them both.
- From Greek Mythology, Aphrodite. Seriously, her husband Hephaestus may not have been a prize catch, but falling for Ares, the homicidal god of war? The fact that she was likely the only one who even liked him should have tipped her off that he was bad news. She really could have done better. Though depending on the myth, Aphrodite might not be any better than Ares. All Girls Want Bad Boys, plus "All's fair in love and war."
- Another example would be most of the city of Troy; it was pretty obvious that the Trojan Horse was a trap. In fact, some residents of the city were not fooled. Possibly the dissenter who could have had the best chance of making them reconsider was the Trojan priest Laocoön (the phrase, "I fear Greeks, even those bringing gifts" can be attributed to him), but after he and his sons were attacked and strangled by serpents, the Trojans paid his warning no heed. (Depending on the version, the serpents were sent either by Poseidon or Apollo, who both held grudges against Laocoön.) Helen also guessed the plot and tried to expose it by mimicking the voices of the wives of some Greeks she suspected were inside the device to convince them to come out. (And Anticlus almost fell for it; the plan would have failed if Odysseus had not covered his mouth with his hand.) King Priam's daughter Cassandra, the soothsayer of Troy (the Trope Namer for Cassandra Truth) predicted the Horse would be the doom of the city and its royal family. But all these warnings went ignored.
- In The Book of Esther, Ahasuerus didn't realize that his vizier Haman is an Evil Chancellor, even when he tried to wipe out all the Jews in Persia, until Ahasuerus realized (found out after she told him) that this would also include his wife, the titular Esther. He trusted Haman so much that all Haman had to say was "let me take care of this group of non-law-abiders", and he got the king's signet ring to use.
- This was Played for Laughs in Shine Wrestling after Allysin Kay's Heel–Face Turn. As a heel, Kay's plan for getting another title shot after losing to Ivelisse Vélez, which she never acknowledged as happening mind you, was to "destroy innocent girls" until management was forced to give in to Kay's demands. As a face, Kay continued on with this 'extortion', except the "innocent" victims she was now "destroying" were almost as bad as she was. This led to Tessa Blanchard, who had been part of the same Power Stable as her while Kay was a heel, being bulldozed by Kay while trying to remind her of the "good times". Blanchard had simply joined by the point the singles title belt had become Kay's all consuming obession. She didn't even notice Blanchard was a member or pay attention to anything Blanchard actually said.
- In Dawn of a New Age: Oldport Blues, Emmanuel sees Simon (or rather, Simon's Split Personality) jump out the window of the destroyed nurse's office wearing a charred nurse's coat and a surgical mask with a maniacal grin drawn on it. He doesn't seem to find any of it suspect and follows along with what Simon wants. To little surprise, Simon attacks him and leaves him unconscious with cracked ribs.
- Pathfinder: Exaggerated with the Emperor Xin of ancient Thassilon. While he wasn't a bad guy himself (his official alignment is Lawful Neutral), all of the people he hired to be Runelords, who were supposed to represent the Seven Heavenly Virtues, instead all turned out the be evil pricks and quickly started to embody the Seven Deadly Sins instead.
- Warhammer 40,000:
- Arguably, The Emperor of Mankind has this problem.
- Despite numerous warnings from various sources, he still failed to see Horus' betrayal coming. I guess you don't expect that sort of thing from your favourite genetically engineered son...
- There’s also his trust in some of his other sons who turned to chaos and all the Chaos Space Marines who were, putting it lightly, horrible, horrible people.
- The one son he did decide not to trust, Magnus the Red, was the one who tried to warn him about Horus, and who was pushed to Chaos as a result.
- The Horus Heresy was mostly caused by the Primarchs being miserable judges of character. The loyal Primarchs refused to believe their brothers would betray the Emperor, allowing them to be blindsided. The Traitor Primarchs that started the Heresy believed the Emperor was a power-hungry jerk who was betraying them. In reality, while the Emperor was undoubtedly a jerk, his goal was ultimately pure — a golden age for Mankind, not the God-Emperor of Mankind.
- There are some stupid, stupid Imperial nobles who hire Dark Eldar to act as mercenaries and deniable assets. Said Dark Eldar usually go in, kill/torture/enslave/commit unspeakable acts upon their unfortunate victims, get paid, and then turn on their stupid, stupid employer.
- What's funnier is the T'au fell victim to this as well; they got Dark Eldar assistance during a particularly ruthless Tyranid invasion. Of course, the Dark Eldar were manipulating them and taking advantage of them right from the very beginning, and the clueless greyskins only clued in when they realized that the "cultural exchange" party they sent over to meet them never returned, and some of the Dark Eldar's nightmarish flesh-hulk creations had a very familiar grey skin tone...
- Twice no less! In another situation described in the Tyranid's 5th edition codex, a T'au colony was attacked by the Tyranids, only be saved by Necrons that had been in hibernation on the planet's moon. The Ethereal in charge of the colony threw a "Thank you for saving us/Welcome to the T'au Empire" celebration that lasted for three days before the Necrons grew bored of the amusing situation and decided they wanted their planet back.
- Arguably, The Emperor of Mankind has this problem.
- Warhammer Fantasy : See every Elven Noble thousands of years ago not only electing Bel-Shanaar as Phoenix King, but also being blind to Malekith's evil intent for so long. Come on! His name is MALEKITH!
- Creon in Sophocles's Antigone. Basically, every single character he meets, he utterly fails to spot that they have good reasons for acting the way they do and wastes an excessive amount of time accusing people of being selfish, corrupt, or (in the case of Antigone herself) just plain female.
- Siegfried in Der Ring des Nibelungen, which proves to be his Fatal Flaw. Everybody around him lies to him and uses him to their advantage, and this leads to his tragic and ignoble death.
- Played with in The Importance of Being Earnest: Cecily claims that her "first impressions of people are never wrong" when really they are consistently wrong.
- Frequent in William Shakespeare's works:
- King Duncan from Macbeth is the Anthropomorphic Personification of this trope, as he blindly trusts both the traitorous Thane of Cawdor and his replacement Macbeth, who kills him.
- A downplayed example in Othello, Othello is mindlessly trusting of his ancient, "honest Iago," a character thoroughly devoted to ruining his life. This is more due to Iago being a Manipulative Bastard than Othello being a Horrible Judge Of Character. It still doesn't excuse some of Othello's idiocy, such as saying he refuses to believe Iago's words about Desdemona's infidelity and then, two seconds later, believing what Iago says. Othello also refuses to believe people who are honest with him, such as Desdemona and Emelia.
- This was also King Lear's problem when he was unable to distinguish between the genuine love his daughter Cordelia had for him and the shallow flattery offered by her wicked sisters. He also failed to see that giving away all his land and power to his daughters was incompatible with wanting them to treat him as though he still had it.
- Also in Hamlet everyone but the titular character is too sycophantic and unintelligent to see that their new king Claudius is a usurper of the throne.
- Katherine Howard from Six. Every time she's approached by an older man, she believes he cares about her and is totally in love with her, before realizing he's only using her for sex. It hits particularly hard with Thomas Culpeper; she believes he watches out for her in court because he's her friend, only to discover he's trying to sleep with her. To make matters worse, this leads to her being beheaded.
- In the National Theatre's 2014 production of Treasure Island, Squire Trelawney does really badly with his choice of crew. He trusts Long John Silver immediately and fails to spot anything wrong with any of the obviously-evil characters Silver suggests as crew members. The ones he hires before he meets Silver are not evil but are all pretty useless (apart from Gray, who seems unlikely but turns out to have hidden qualities).
- RWBY: Nicholas Schnee, Weiss' grandfather, allowed his son-in-law Jacques to take over the Schnee Dust Company because of his business acumen. Sadly, he overlooked Jacques' serious lack of moral fiber; Jacques turned out to be a Corrupt Corporate Executive, and has turned against everything Nicholas stood for by, among other things, using shady business practices to maximize profit, driving rival companies out of business, exploiting his workers, and keeping the people of Mantle in poverty, all while hiding his unsavory dealings with aggressive PR.
- Tony Purgatelli from Purgatony has a reputation for being the worst caseworker in Purgatory, where his job is to decide where a person should go after they die. Episode 7 reveals the whole office has a betting pool on where he'll send his next client since he's the only one whose decisions no one can predict.
- The entirety of Ian "Worthikids" Worthington's Free Apple is about the frustratingly awful judgement of a Too Dumb to Live King, who keeps accepting poisoned food from an Obviously Evil shopkeep in a cavern and stubbornly ignores the advice of his talking owl Krebulon.
- The Most Epic Story Ever Told in All of Human History: Lampshaded in episode five, "The Most Epic Crime-Stopping Mission Ever". Nobody considers that Ridiculously Epic might be evil, despite his evil-looking mustache, Red Eyes, Take Warning, and driving a car with "Evil Mobile" written on it. The text even points directly to his face and says "totally not an evil moustache or eyes". For bonus points, Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep's Terra, one of the most notorious examples of this trope out there, randomly shows up to say "Okay, I believe you!"
- Fighter from 8-Bit Theater insists that Ax-Crazy Black Mage is his "bestest [sic] friend" and will protect the Squishy Wizard against attacks from others, despite the fact that Black Mage hates Fighter's guts, and has said so, and has repeatedly tried to kill Fighter (not that it works, because Fighter is practically indestructible). Fighter, being the Cloudcuckoolander that he is, will insist that this is merely Black Mage being "such a kidder."
- In EarthBound (1994) webcomic The Chosen Four, Monotoli describes Pokey like "such a nice boy, but a bit troubled". Seriously. It is not a wonder Pokey was able to exploit him.
- Gordon Frohman of Concerned is a Black Shirt who utterly supports The Combine who have enslaved his race and is utterly against La Résistance of the humans, Gordon Freeman as well as the Vortigaunts, the alien allies of the humans. His hatred of Vortigaunts, and belief that they're trying to kill him, ends up making them choose to let him die rather than save his life.
- Scary Go Round: Ryan Beckwith is way too trusting for his own good when it comes to Ralph, Tackleford's local occultist. Even though Ralph's advice has come back to bite him in the ass time after time, he still defends him and goes back to get his spiritual advice. This may have changed now that Ralph has been exposed as the devil.
- Joey from A Game of Fools, who doesn't seem to realise that the aliens that have abducted him mean to kill and rape him, can't see anything weird about an insane naked man whose "backpack smelt like dead people" and thinks the Ax-Crazy hitchhiker they've picked up, who openly admits to multiple murders, bizarre sexual fetishes and necrophilia, is a perfectly nice guy.
- There's also the fact that he still considers Sylvester one of his best friends despite the absolutely goddamn horrible things he manipulates him into doing.
- Sylvester can be pretty bad himself, particularly when it comes to his friendship with Tomato (and the majority of his other friends too, if this is any indication). Although in his case he does at least seem partly aware of how horrible they are - he just doesn't really care.
- Joey's rather poor choice of gym probably counts too.
- There's also the fact that he still considers Sylvester one of his best friends despite the absolutely goddamn horrible things he manipulates him into doing.
- Otacon comes up again in The Last Days of Foxhound, where Liquid is able to convince him to install a nuclear launch program on Metal Gear by telling him that he wants to shoot down meteors like in Armageddon (1998) (however, there's evidence that Otacon's in denial about Metal Gear's true purpose at this point, and Liquid did threaten to feed him to a largely-unfriendly-to-him-wolf).
- In The Order of the Stick:
- Poor deluded Tsukiko. Do you honestly think that just because you think the living are jerks, the undead Card-Carrying Villain Xykon is going to be any better? Even the Monster In The Darkness has worked this one out. This ultimately proves to be her downfall when her beloved Wights turn against her when Redcloak uses Command Undead on them, with her last words asking why they won't love her as she loves them.
- For that matter, the Monster in the Darkness himself is convinced that Xykon and Redcloak are his friends because they give him food and toys to shut him up. Somewhat more justified in his case, though, as he has a rather childlike personality. And after finding a real friend in O-Chul, he starts to grow out of it.
- Ian Starshine has so far concluded that Chaotic Good Elan is evil to the core because of his father, but Chaotic Evil Belkar has some good in him. While his assessment of Elan is completely off the mark, his assessment of Belkar is a bit more reasonable, as Belkar had recently learned the value of actively deceiving others that he was good, or at least willing to play along with society's rules. However, this is exactly the kind of deception a master thief should be aware of, so it still counts. May also be foreshadowing as Belkar's development seems to be turning genuine.
- Elan himself displays this behavior towards his father, General Tarquin when they first meet, being so desperate to see him as the father figure he's always wanted that he overlooks the fact that he's a scheming Lawful Evil general and one of the key players in an oppressive dictatorial empire. Elan needs literal giant flaming letters made of Tarquin's slaves to understand who he really is.
- Celia has a tendency to trust people who really don't deserve to be trusted, such as in "A Seller's Market," when she puts her faith in a thug despite knowing that he murdered his own brother, (wrongfully assuming that he's wracked by guilt over the incident), and in "A Dish Best Served with +1D6 Cold Damage," when she's lied to by Haley and accepts the lie without question.
- Zig-zagged when Durkon is turned into a vampire: Belkar is Properly Paranoid about Vampire Durkon being Obviously Evil and deceiving everyone for his own purposes, while the rest of the party falls for vampire Durkon acting friendly and assuring them that he's merely Dark Is Not Evil now. Roy in particular is largely driven by denial, so he doesn't have to deal with the guilt of being unable to stop a longtime friend from being vampirized. It takes an extremely blatant Out-of-Character Alert for Roy to realize what's going on, and he berates himself for being so stupid about the Obviously Evil guy.
- Girard Draketooth is an odd case of this - instead of trusting an obviously untrustworthy character, he refused to trust that Soon Kim, an epic-level paladin who oozed Lawful Good from every pore, could keep to his oath and avoid meddling with the rest of the team's affairs. In point of fact, Soon was the only one of the team who did keep to his oath.
- Kiki towards Bun-Bun in Sluggy Freelance. She acknowledges him as being a little mean and grumpy but thinks all he needs to get over that is more hugs.
- Riff is certain Sam the vampire and Aylee the alien are threats to humanity, even after years of contradicting evidence. But he'd never suspect his girlfriends of sinister agendas, not 'too cool to be true' Sasha or 'Psycho Girlfriend From Hell' Monica. And he knows for sure that his father is not "a bad guy."
- Hanna in Hanna Is Not a Boy's Name. Sure, you can make deals with vampires. They're trustworthy and never go back on their word; even when you're trusting them with your life and everyone else's.
- Lee Falun. His best friend was a Jerkass whose son was always covered in bruises and whose wife plainly resented him. Did Lee do the math? Nope. Said best friend also murdered him.
- In Bob and George, Dr. Light has problems with this in the Mega Man 3 story arc, completely ignoring every obvious sign that Wily doesn't have the amnesia he claims to have, taking the problem in the actual game and turning it way, way up. Then subverts it at the end when it is revealed he deliberately gave Dr. Wily faulty power crystals, which caused Gamma to fail.
- In Homestuck, John decides to take advice on Sequence Breaking from a Troll while in the Medium, against the warnings of his closest friend. It doesn't end well.
- In the alpha timeline where John does listen to his friend, he then starts taking advice from Vriska. That doesn't end well either, but it ended badly in a way that was actually ending well in disguise. On the other hand, trusting Karkat, WV, and the Consorts turn out to be pretty smart moves.
- Nick in General Protection Fault is the one who most persistently defends Trudy, in spite of Ki and Fooker's justified suspicions about her. The Surreptitious Machinations arc involves the cast racing to help him realize that his "Project Velociraptor" is the keystone of her plans, and it ultimately results in him realizing her duplicity and refusing to help her. After that, he realizes that he can't always trust people blindly, leading to him seeing through Trish's story (ironically, as Ki decided to give her the benefit of the doubt like Nick used to) and noticing that the Ki who lured him into the Mutex is not the one he knows.
- Mr. Jones of Goodman Rubber is one, as he, impressed with Fooker's skills, invites him to give a motivational talk (Fooker is every bit as good as Mr. Jones thinks and perhaps better, but he's also a Bunny-Ears Lawyer with a questionable sense of humor). He later laments how someone as nice as Trudy "fell in with that wrong crowd," and believes that Trent is far more competent than he actually is.
- Kevin of Kevin & Kell is considered this as a result of being a fearless rabbit, which is implied to have been what led him to marry his first wife Angelique. By the time the strip begins, though, he's smarter about people's ulterior motives.
- The entire faculty of Bumblebane's in Wizard School, with the exception of Prof. Evilmore. It doesn't help that Good Is Dumb is in high levels in the comic's universe. And probably all the students in Dragonbane House, with the exception of Celeste, who has Graham pegged for the utter asshole he is but has been instructed to help train him, and What The Faculty Says Goes.
- Flipside: It's implied that the cheating scientist's wife is one of the worst judges of character in the series; when she learns that her husband is a cuckolding Mad Scientist, she goes on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge trying to kill him and his associates. As it turns out, she murdered an innocent woman who was an out-of-the-loop bodyguard, and her hired muscle is a sociopathic pariah who she has completely misjudged as a consummate professional. It's implied that all she did in her life was find people she thought she could trust (because they were violently sociopathic), gave them extreme amounts of power and funding from her personal coffers (which they use after their contracts expire to cause unfortunate collateral damage to bystanders), and in her last moments destroyed world-changing scientific research under the impression that it was worthless because her husband was apparently-to-her worthless.
- Freefall: A common trait of many A.I.s.
- An early running gag is that Florence would interpret Sam Starfall's decisions and behavior based on her own very moral worldview, and assume that they were the actions of a respectable and morally upstanding citizen, words that do not describe Sam well. Even when he would take seemingly bad actions (such as abandoning her in a dangerous storm), she would assume that circumstances had forced him to do so against his will. Eventually, she comes to learn his true character, but chooses to stand by him because he does have a code of honor inherited from his homeworld, and will stand by it no matter how much money selling out would get him... especially if he can steal a smaller sum and anger a larger number of people.
- Clippy believes that Mr. Kornada is the most wonderful person in the universe and that anything he wants or needs must be for the good of humanity and the universe. Including stealing enormous amounts of money by lobotomizing the original owners. This is because Kornada explicitly told him so, and is forbidding him to connect to the net where he might find evidence to the contrary. Or receive overruling orders from his real owner.
- Blunt believes that Mr. Kornada is a hero trying to free humanity from the threat of obsolescence at the hands of a robot race doing everything for them. The notion of Kornada being driven by greed hasn't appeared to occur to himnote .
- Girl Genius: Othar is unable to comprehend that Klaus isn't the villain. Even back in the day, Klaus wasn't the Token Evil Teammate. That was Lucrezia. Klaus was the pragmatic, jaded teammate. Klaus may be a tyrant, but his rule is much freer and safer than the anarchy that came before it. In the present time, Othar also can't process that Gil is the Token Good Teammate of Agatha's team with Tarvek being the Token Evil Teammate and Agatha being the pragmatic one. He has their roles backwards in his head.
- In The Guide to a Healthy Relationship, Apollo feels sorry for Daniel because he has such a difficult life with a romantic partner who's mentally ill, and notes "he really wants to make their relationship work"... immediately after Daniel just cheated on his partner Julian with Apollo. Which is far from the pinnacle of all the shit he puts Julian through.
- In a lampshade of Kingdom Hearts' tendency to have its characters trust people they obviously shouldn't, Kingdom Hearts in a Nutshell has a Running Gag of characters stating an obvious lie (or simply just stating something the other characters have no reason to believe), and the other characters always responding with "okay i believe you.", almost always followed by them being betrayed by said obvious liar.
- Tales of MU:
- Amaranth. Friend to All Living Things taken to the logical extreme or just an idiot? You decide.
- Mack, who has yet to learn that an awesome rack does not a good person make.
- Red vs. Blue:
- Donut mistakes Blue Base for a convenience store; and still somehow manages to get the Blue flag when Caboose mistakes him for a general. Later on, Donut mistakes the Meta (An insane soldier who speaks exclusively in growls) as friends with Simmons (when in reality, the Meta is trying to kill Donut and Simmons), even mistaking the Meta's grenade launcher/bayonet combo as being a broom.
- During the 12th season, Tucker, Grif, Simmons, and Caboose are given their own squads, and Caboose chooses one Ander-Smith as his lieutenant. During his formal introduction, Ander-Smith expresses his belief that Caboose is one of the wisest men on the planet, and misinterprets his ramblings as deep and meaningful predictions for the future.
- A Very Potter Musical plays with Dumbledore's trust of Snape in this way. In one scene, he accepts a sandwich that has a pipe bomb poorly concealed in it, then gets annoyed when Hermione destroys it.
I'm going to go make myself another sandwich, although I don't know how it can be as good as the last one. That one ticked!
- It also takes Cornelius Fudge's refusal to believe Voldemort was back in the original series to the logical extreme. He denies it even as Voldemort walks into his office and kills him
- The Nostalgia Critic is perfectly adept at pointing out Obviously Evil in movies but fails in his own life. Not getting that The Nostalgia Chick wanted his power in Kickassia is a good example.
- The Legend of Zelda: The Abridged Series: Played for laughs with the King of Hyrule in Xana's Ocarina of Time Abridged Series, who is so utterly trusting of Ganondorf that he willingly ignores Ganondorf's Evil Gloating. He's convinced by Zelda to stop trusting Ganondorf only to instantly reverse his opinion when he loses his train of thought. Also, this trope applies to anyone stupid enough to trust Link. Especially Navi.